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As US Celebrates Accomplishments of Women in Space – Isn’t it Time to Celebrate Equal Pay?

May 2 – Recently, Peggy Whitson famed female astronaut was seen celebrating more than 534 days in space–more days spent in space, than any other American astronaut. Yet, not only is Ms. Whitson’s accomplishments astounding, being a woman in a field dominated by men-she has broken the gravitational pull of the glass ceiling that so many earthbound women are unable to break–the wage gap.

It is these high-profile accomplishment by women such as Ms. Whitson that may well help put the spotlight on women’s accomplishments not only in space, but women’s accomplishments comparable to their male counterparts in myriad industries.

As research done by the Institute of Women’s Policy Research:

“On average, women continue to earn considerably less than men. In 2015, female full-time, year-round workers made only 80 cents for every dollar earned by men, a gender wage gap of 20 percent.”

Yet additional data points to moms and women of color earning even less. 

Accordingly, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) compiled the following statistical census data from 2015:

It takes until approximately an extra half a year, until “June 4” to mark a Mom’s Equal Pay Day–the symbolic day when the average salaries of mothers who work full time, year-round, catch up to the salaries that fathers earned the previous year! These facts are stunning! Not only do working mothers suffer from an even wider pay gap, or as the AAUW refers to as a “mommy tax;” working fathers in fact receive a “wage premium” once they become a parent. This is blatant discrimination.

The Moms’ Equal Pay Day as it is referred to, is one of many Equal Pay Day benchmarks–when women “break even” with their male counterparts doing the same job. Accordingly, these dates have been calculated as follows:

June 4 — Moms’ Equal Pay Day: mothers must work an extra 155 days to catch up to their male counterparts, since working mothers typically receive 70 cents for every dollar working fathers receive.

July 28 — African American women Equal Pay Day: the symbolic day is when African American women’s earnings catch up to non-Hispanic white men’s earnings from the previous year. Because non-Hispanic white men are the largest demographic group in the labor force, they are often used as a benchmark when we examine the gender pay gap. Compared with white men, African American women typically make just 64 cents on the dollar.

October 15 — “Latinas” women Equal Pay Day:  the symbolic day when Latinas’ earnings catch up to non-Hispanic white men’s earnings from the previous year. Yes, you read that right — Latinas have to work 10 months into the year to catch up to what white men made in the previous year! That’s because Latinas typically make 54 cents to the dollar when compared with white, non-Hispanic men.

Most startling, this same Census data calculates that women will not have equal pay until 2152!

With this data as a backdrop it is no wonder American women are marching in Washington and elsewhere and fighting for equal pay for equal work. Short of a constitutional amendment mandating same, Women need to stand up, rally for fairness, and we must elect legislators and those in the executive branch that feel the same. Wage discrimination as a means to perfect sexual discrimination must not be tolerated.

Justitia, Right, Justice, Case Law

In fact, the Equal Pay Act was signed by President John F. Kennedy in 1963. Known as a landmark piece of federal anti-discrimination legislation, the law was one of the very first of its kind to address gender-based wage disparities. Upon signing it, President Kennedy referred to the act a “first step” which “affirms our determination that when women enter the labor force they will find equality in their pay envelopes.” Yet he pointed out that “much remains to be done to achieve full equality of economic opportunity.”  Any other result is not acceptable by American women and most of society. The Fair Pay Act must be made a reality as it would go far beyond the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act signed by President Obama in his first term.

In Congress, the next step in attaining equal pay for equal work is the Paycheck Fairness Act — according to the ACLU, it is “a bill that would amend the Equal Pay Act to give workers stronger enforcement tools and remedies to help close, for once and for all, the pay gap between men and women.” In fact, this bill would, also, “make sure that employers could not pay men and women differently without a business justification and prohibit retaliation against workers who inquire about their employers’ wage practices or disclose their own wages, all while providing important small-business exceptions and assistance.”

Just as Ms. Whitson celebrates breaking the gravitational ceiling in space–Earthbound women must break the gravitational pull of pay inequality here at home. For more information on how to fight this injustice, visit: US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or contact the ACLU, or an employment law specialist.